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Cabinet notes information governance report that ‘alarmed’ Governance and Audit committee

Powys County Council

A HISTORIC report detailing the work by a Powys council department that deals with Freedom of Information requests and data protection has been noted by senior councillors.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, May 21, the annual Information Governance Report for 2022/2023 was received by the members.

During that year, the council received a total of 1,093 information requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, Environmental Information Regulations (EIR) and Subject Access Requests (SAR) 2022/2023.

This is slightly less than the 1,109 received in 2021/20222.

FOI and EIR requests are supposed to receive an answer in 20 working days while for SAR the deadline is 30 days.

FOI compliance rate was 84 per cent, EIR was also 84 per cent but SARs were only completed on time 57 per cent of the time.

The Information Commissioner expects the compliance rate to be at 90 per cent.

The report has been discussed by members of the Governance and Audit committee last month and was described as “alarming” by senior figures there.

The report only gave “partial assurance” that the council’s arrangements adequately reflect the principles of good information

The report said that: “Some key risks are not well managed, and processes require the introduction or improvement of internal controls, and resources to ensure effective governance.”

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Cabinet member for customer services and information, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman said: “We go into a great deal of detail on the governance activities we manage and monitor across the council.

“The report is for information.”

Cllr Jake Berriman (Pic: Powys County Council)

Senior information governance manager Helen Dolman apologised for the “lateness of the report.”

Ms Dolman said: “There’s been a conflict of priorities over the year to get the report produced.

“The 2023/2024 report will be with you shortly.”

“The report explains the steps we have taken throughout the year.”

Council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr James Gibson-Watt asked if the cabinet needed to vote on the report.

Head of legal services and monitoring officer, Clive Pinney said: “It’s been received, and we’ll record that the report has been noted.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “We look forward to the 2023/2024 version in due course.”

A problem highlighted in the report is that only 51 per cent of the 2021-2023 Information Management Assurance and Governance plan had been completed as of March 31, 2023.

The other 49 per cent had been moved over to the 2023-2025 plan.

Staff turnover in the department has affected its performance and while it has been described as at “full strength” they need time to develop their knowledge, skills, and confidence.